Things we learned from Chelsea 3, Burnley 0

Things we learned from Burnley's 3-0 defeat against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge

Sunday, 28th August 2016, 3:10 pm
Updated Sunday, 28th August 2016, 4:16 pm
Aiden O'Neill

Club must deliver for Dyche

I don't know about it being something we learned, but finishing a game against Chelsea, at Stamford Bridge, with an 18-year-old - albeit prodigiously talented - and a centre back in the heart of midfield, was a damning indictment of Burnley's recruitment policy.

Not just in this transfer window, but over a number of years now.

Clarets boss Sean Dyche didn't dress it up after the game, which ended with Aiden O'Neill and James Tarkowski as his engine room, saying: "It's not a message to the board, it's a reality of where we are at as a club, in a tough market.

"Its not just us saying it's a tough market, I'm hearing managers across the board say that, but clubs like this can work beyond the tough market and keep paying.

"We're simply in a position where it's just not that easy to do."

He was able to break the club's transfer record to land Belgium midfielder Steven Defour, who was again taken off before the hour as he comes to terms with the pace of the Premier League.

But he has seen the club fail with three offers each for Jeff Hendrick of Derby County and Brighton's Dale Stephens.

It remains to be seen if either could yet arrive at Turf Moor before 11 p.m. on Wednesday night.

The club have to do something to aid the manager, however.

He has shown just what he can do with little or no money in winning promotion in 2014.

Unable to significantly upgrade his squad, Dyche made a very good fist of trying to secure survival the following year.

Given some funds to spend, bringing in Andre Gray for a club record - while keeping the books cash neutral - he again steered the club back to the Premier League, and he deserves to take on the challenge again, not with one hand tied behind his back, but with his targets delivered this time.

It might be late in the day, but there is still time to give Dyche and his players a real opportunity to stay at this level.

The club cannot make the same mistake of two years ago, or even 18 months ago, when, after failing to significantly bolster central midfield, they suffered the loss of Dean Marney to a cruciate knee ligament injury as soon as the window closed.

That may have been Sod's law. But it was also a case of bad planning.

Marney was again forced off injured at Chelsea, and while Fredrik Ulvestad was with the travelling party, he was not in the 18-man match day squad, leaving Dyche light.

Even when Defour signed - the first time Burnley had paid a fee for a central midfielder in just over four years - David Jones made an exit, leaving the club back to square one.

With a quality central midfield addition, or two - and Stephens would fall into that category as arguably part of the best pairing in the Championship last season - Burnley will have a fighting chance to stay up, especially with a different forward option, which looks like Patrick Bamford, and maybe another wide player, preferably with pace, or trickery.

Whether chairman Mike Garlick can deliver is key to the Clarets' hopes.

The counter attackers are counter attacked

While Chelsea are not a barometer of how Burnley will fare this season, a week after the masterclass against Liverpool, of how to press and counter, and defend the 18-yard box, they were unpicked by Antonio Conte's side, who again look capable of winning the title, which they have in Burnley's last two Premier League campaigns.

The difference was, while Chelsea are a better side with better players than Liverpool - and Burnley, as Dyche accepted, were not at their best - the Blues, at times, were happy for the Clarets to have the ball, to sit off and wait for a misplaced pass, and hurt them on the counter.

That, and their ability to retain their width through the magnificent Eden Hazard and Willian, rather than come inside into congested areas, created numerous situations and openings, finding gaps where Liverpool couldn't.

Burnley were not as direct as often, and when they were, they went down the middle rather than pull John Terry and former Claret Gary Cahill away from the centre to expose their lack of pace.

O'Neill has a bright future

One real plus for Burnley has been the progress of young Australian midfielder Aiden O'Neill.

With an injury to Dean Marney, and Steven Defour still getting up to speed to the physical demands of the Premier League, O'Neill was thrust into a difficult situation with the Clarets 2-0 down, and Chelsea with the scent of blood in their nostrils.

O'Neill came on at the death last Saturday for his first team debut, with the game won at Liverpool, and was one of the only plus points in the 1-0 EFL Cup exit at Accrington Stanley.

But to come on at Stamford Bridge, with the game gone, and the likes of N'Golo Kante, Nemanja Matic, Willian, Eden Hazard, Oscar and Pedro strutting their stuff, to show the clarity of thought he did, was startling.

He has terrific composure, confidence, and, for his age, an impressive desire to continually show for the ball, and get involved.

It would have been easy to hide, and let more senior professionals take the mantle, but in a brief cameo, he showed an awful lot about his character.

As Sean Dyche said: "Aiden was fantastic, to come on in a really tough game, hold his nerve, want the ball, keep the ball - if he carries on the way he's going, he's got a bright future. I was pleased to see an 18-year-old on a football pitch in the Premier League, fantastic, and he held his own."

Burnley fans might not want to hear it in the current climate, but, in a positive way, O'Neill could save the club an awful lot of money.